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Old 05-18-2014, 06:43 PM   #1
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Home Hot Water Heater Shutoff while gone

I have been given conflicting advice.

One says turn off the water when gone from home for an extended time and turn off the water heater so it does not keep heating and evaporating thereby burning up the heating element.

The other says don't turn off the HWH at home because doing so will encourage growth of bacteria and other nasty stuff to happen. Turn the heat to low and the water level will be fine.

So what do ya'll think?
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Old 05-18-2014, 07:27 PM   #2
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I turn off my water and my water heater. My water heater has a pilot light and I see no reason to waist natural gas for an extended period of time. It seems to me that bacteria is more likely to grow in warm water (low setting) than cold.
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Old 05-18-2014, 07:33 PM   #3
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I turn mine off too.
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Old 05-18-2014, 07:34 PM   #4
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We turn off the HWH and the water before leaving!
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Old 05-18-2014, 07:34 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Butte64 View Post
The other says don't turn off the HWH at home because doing so will encourage growth of bacteria and other nasty stuff to happen.
This makes little sense to me. If I were to be away for more than 2 weeks, I'd shut it off. Nothing will grow in there that wouldn't grow in your cold water pipes also.

Now if it was a very old water heater, I might be reticent to turn it off for fear of it cracking due to the thermal stress of it totally cooling and then reheating. It's only a thin layer of glass that lines the steel tank, and once it develops a crack, it is just a matter of time, and not much time either.
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Old 05-18-2014, 07:37 PM   #6
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I always turned mine off when I had one. I now have an instant HWH and it is off as long as no water is passing through it and I shut the water off when I leave.
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Old 05-18-2014, 07:49 PM   #7
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Doubtful any bacteria would grow/survive in the hot water tank and with the water turned off no new water would be introduced.
Turn off both when we leave. Also turn off water lines to washing machine, probably out of habit......
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Old 05-18-2014, 08:39 PM   #8
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I doubt that bacteria will grow if it's city water however the water will stagnate and stink because of the anode rod in the tank. I would shut both off so I can sleep at night knowing my basement isn't becoming an indoor pool.
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Old 05-18-2014, 08:47 PM   #9
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  1. It's a water heater, not a Hot water heater. You don't heat hot water.
  2. The rules vary if it's gas or electric.
  3. Electric, flip the breaker off. New codes (thank heavens!) require a disconnect at the water heater. Turning the water off is optional.
  4. Gas depends on how long you'll be gone. We rarely travel for more than a week so I turn my gas water heater valve to 'pilot.' It keeps the water warm enough not to grow any bacteria or bio-films. If gone for a month or so, I'd turn the WH gas valve all the way off. Re-light the WH and make sure to wait until it's fully heated the water before you use it. (a friend actually got Legionnaire's Disease by not waiting for the water to fully heat.)
If you decide to turn the water valve off, make double (dirty word) sure that you fill the tank before you turn the gas or electric back on.


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Old 05-18-2014, 08:47 PM   #10
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Beyond the silly bacteria issue, would be the potential for a broken Water heater, or water pipe when no one is home !
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Old 05-18-2014, 08:53 PM   #11
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I leave the pilot on when we are gone. You would be surprised how hot the water can be with just a pilot. I shut the water off to the house and don't worry about a tank leak
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Old 05-18-2014, 08:59 PM   #12
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We ALWAYS turn off the water in the house when we travel. We also open all the taps to allow the water to drain to the lowest point in the house (basement). We have a natural gas HWH and set it to "Pilot" as turning it off requires relighting when we return and likely replacement of the thermocouple (learned through experience). We have a Honeywell heating/cooling thermostat that can be adjusted over the internet allowing us to lower temperatures in the winter and restore heating or AC before we return home. It can also be set (through the internet portal) to send email alerts when house temperatures go above or below defined thresholds. In our area, most home insurance claims are related to water damages so it is prudent to mitigate the opportunity where possible.
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Old 05-18-2014, 09:38 PM   #13
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Quote:
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Beyond the silly bacteria issue, would be the potential for a broken Water heater, or water pipe when no one is home !

Very rare but one hell of a mess if it happens. There are all those toilet supply lines and water lines for the ice maker, washing machine, dish washer that all have the potential of making for a bad day.
For me, I enjoy the peace of mind so that I don't have an OS moment upon returning home !!
How does that go....... An ounce of prevention......... You get the idea :-)
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Old 05-18-2014, 10:31 PM   #14
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If Mine I'd shut it down completely. just flip the breaker, or turn the gas valve to pilot.
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